Today I’m pleased to welcome J. E. Lowder to Off the Page, chatting about his new book Tears of Min Brock.
J.E. Lowder has played bass for Shania Twain, been charged by a black rhino while on safari, and visited the Oval Office. He honed his love for both music and writing while in high school when he went backstage to interview such artists as Bob Seger, Rush and Kansas – “sorta like “Almost Famous” but without Kate Hudson!” he quips.
Lowder draws from all these experiences and injects a healthy dose of pure imagination when crafting his debut fantasy series,The War of Whispers. He points to the a quote by G.K. Chesterton as the summation of his writing philosophy: “Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman.”
He is married, the father of four wonderful children, and is a proud grandfather. He lives near Nashville, TN where he continues to write. An avid biker, Lowder says he is “always on the prowl for adventure and stories.”
You can get in touch with J. E. Lowder here:
1. Tell a little about yourself, what you do when you’re not writing, what are your aspirations for the future?
I love to bike, as in road bikes, not Harley’s. Where I live in Tennessee, I can hop on my bike and be in the country in minutes. I typically ride with our local club and have become known as “Herr Map Fuhrer.” I guess I’m geeky in that I love using Google Earth or Map My Ride to find new and exciting bike routes. Truth is we live in a valley, so I’m trying to find an easier way over the steep hills. So far, no luck, but I’ve indeed found some breathtaking views!
I also love to cook, hang with my family, and stare into a fire sipping spiced rum.
2. When and why did you start writing?
When I was a boy, my family moved a lot and we often lived in rural areas. To entertain myself, I’d take my dog and my BB gun, and go off into the woods where my imagination transported me into my own world of adventure.
My first efforts as a writer started in junior high when I’d write some short stories. In high school, I was the review editor for our magazine (yes, we had a magazine and not a paper.) It was during this phase that I finagled backstage passes to interview rockers like Foghat, Kansas and Rush. I even won a writing award at a conference, but instead of going off to college to pursue journalism, I set sail for the world of music.
I really didn’t become serious about writing until about ten years ago. I’d suffered a crisis of faith and was struggling through life when friends suggested I journal. I took their advice but quickly found that when I journal, it becomes a story. In essence, the War of Whispers series is my journal…with TONS of embellishment!!
3. If you could only read one book over and over again for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
There are too many great books to comment on this one, especially with the kicker, “over and over again for the rest of your life.”
4. Give us some back story about Tears of Min Brock, where and when did you write it?
Long before my crisis of faith (see answer #5), I’d tell my boys bedtime stories. Over time I found which they liked more than others and developed a series. One was based upon two boys living in a fantasy world where they faced dark warriors and were helped by an enigmatic king and his knights. Little did I know that I was creating the genesis for the War of Whispers series.
During this same time span, I was on tour as a musician in Europe. As I took in the view from atop Edinburgh Castle in Scotland or gazed upon the armory in the Tower of London, I was unknowingly gathering material I’d use years later when writing Tears of Min Brock.
5. What inspired your story?
Tears of Min Brock was inspired by my crisis of faith as well as rediscovering a deeper, richer delight in God. I wanted to try and express what this journey felt like emotionally, but not in a churchy or preachy manner. Once I began writing, the story just took off!
At first, I thought it would be a novella, but as I progressed, I realized it was growing into a novel, which—to be honest—was intimidating! With more work, I discovered that the only way to fully convey and develop the characters was to write a series of books. Talk about feeling overwhelmed!! Nevertheless, I can honestly say that this project has been the most energizing task I’ve ever tackled. Yes, there have been times when I’ve wanted to quit, and that’s when a friend or a fan would ask: “So when is the other book coming out?” Encouraged and energized, I’d roll up my sleeves and get back to work.
6. What was your favorite part of Tears of Min Brock to write?
The War of Whispers series, which by the way is completed, has what I call “key-visionary scenes.” These are vignettes my imagination mulled over as I developed the rest of the book and are vital to the storyline. For Tears of Min Brock, my favorite of these is the ending, but of course, I can’t discuss in too much detail or I’ll give it away.
Back when I was writing the first draft, I’d read the chapters to my kids before bedtime. I’ll never forget my oldest daughter’s reaction when I read the last line from the final chapter. She sat up in bed, looked me in the eye and blurted, “You can’t end it like that!”
I smiled and knew that what I had envisioned, in regards to reader reaction, had worked. I hope you’ll read the book to find out for yourself!
7. Your book’s going to be made into a movie, who would you cast in the main roles?
I’d cast the movie with great actors that are unknowns, like they did for Lord of the Rings or Hunger Games. Nothing against the likes of actors like Brad Pitt, but the last thing I’d want is for a star to overshadow a character like Quinn or Linwith.
8. Are you a Pantser or Plotter? Why?
Pantser! In many ways, I write like jazz. I developed the key-visionary scenes for all the books in my head and then I started to write. The story naturally filled out as the character grew or when I’d ponder, “What if they did this instead of that?” Yeah, I had to go back and re-write or tweak, but for me, it was more of an organic experience. Although I did take time to write out a chronological chart to make sure the character’s ages would correspond with the story’s timeline.
Shoot, if I mapped everything out, wouldn’t that be called a term paper or a dissertation? No thanks!!
9. Do you have any tricks to your trade, bottomless coffee, a magic pen, a special muse?
I sure do! I pack up my computer, my bike, and gobs of food and drive to a mountain cabin. There, I write, eat, read, bike until I’ve finished the book. Sound dreamy? Well, it should because I just made all of that up!
Here’s the reality: for me, writing is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. In fact, if I went off to one of those writer’s retreats in the mountains or at the beach, I wouldn’t get anything done. Why? Because I’d be out hiking the trails looking for adventure or snorkeling the surf looking for stingrays! I do much better hunkered down in my office in the wee hours of the morn. It forces my imagination to work. If I can see it, feel it, hear it and smell it, then I know I’m on to something and can therefore write it.
10. If you could be any fictional character for a day, who would it be and why?
Hmm…I’m going to stick with my series and choose (drumroll, please!) Linwith. Although a minor character in Tears of Min Brock, he evolves into a more dynamic personality in the following books whose role is filled with action and adventure. In fact, he gets to do things I’ve always dreamed of doing. I wish I could divulge more, but I’d give away too much! You’ll simply have to read the series to find out!
The Dark War is over. Betrayal, defeat and death forever accompany any mention of the battlefield known as Min Brock. The shining kingdom of Claire is no more. Any hint of rebellion is supressed by the constant drone that echoes throughout the land. The Oracles of the Council of Ebon, the dark lords who feed the perpetual flames of the Cauldron, forbid even mentioning the name of the Only, the King of Claire, on pain of death.
Yet in the night… a whisper comes to Elabea, a girl of 14 summers, who hears and dares to believe there might be more to life than the drone. Accompanied by her lifelong friend, Galadin, Elabea embarks on a dangerous journey to become one of the most powerful creatures in the land – a storyteller. Along the way she must learn to discern the true whisper of Claire from the counterfeit whisper of Ebon. One might lead her to restore light and life to a world ruled by darkness. The other leads to certain death.
The War of Whispers has begun.